Environmentally Friendly Living – what is available and is it really ‘The Good life?’

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It's easy to assume that green living involves self-sacrifice, if not suffering. Witness Tom and Barbara of The Good Life abandoning middle-class comforts for Wellington boots, pigs in the garden and a methane-powered car.  At least they kept the house.  What of those who jettison bricks and mortar for an eco-friendly alternative, say a subterranean home dug into the side of a hill?  Like living in a burial mound, surely?

In fact, there are now many options for stylish and comfortable homes that also score high on environmental ratings.  A key factor is choice of building materials, taking into account how much energy is used to create them, transport them and build the property; how well they insulate it; and of course their aesthetic appeal.  Design is key; it is possible to achieve energy efficiency whatever your building footprint. 

Beyond this, there is great scope for individual expression, as illustrated on greenmatch.co.uk, helping people switch to renewable energy.  Today homes can be created from a variety of sustainable materials including earth, straw, wood pallets or even bamboo, should you wish to connect with your inner panda.  If your preferred building material does not create the right look, you can disguise the property with an external finish such as lime render or wood cladding. Styles vary widely. 

Sat 25 Feb

Naturally, at Green Unit we are swayed by curves – the environmentally friendly curves of the ARC™ building which can be clad in red cedar or lime render with the all-import live sedum roof offering a natural habitat for bees and insects. 

Alternative Green building options

If curves aren’t for you then you can go for something mostly symmetrical with a sloping roof and small windows.  There is much to choose from including asymmetrical builds with multiple levels and floor to ceiling windows.  Some properties are low to the ground, or even part underground, others rise several stories high or are built well off the ground (a very important consideration where flooding is a risk).  

Not so long ago, developers built new homes with tiny windows.  The aim:  to maximise energy efficiency.  The result: often a house starved of natural light, dark and gloomy even in high summer.  Perfect for vampires, but maybe not the rest of us.  Windows have moved on, though.  Double glazing has evolved and, in part, been ousted by triple glazing which offers a lower environmental impact.  With improvements also to materials and designs for frames, there is now a fine selection of eco-friendly windows, some imitating traditional styles, others unashamedly modern.  They can be sited just where you want: wall windows, roof windows, mansard windows (wall and roof in one) and feature windows (circular, triangular, gothic style, full length floor to ceiling). And as well as green credentials, other factors come into play such as crime prevention: windows can be fitted with high security locks and restrictors.  Doors have likewise marched into the eco-friendly era, with a wider choice of energy-efficient materials and styles.

If privacy is a concern, especially in homes with a more open feel sound-proof walls may come to the rescue.  They were once the preserve of professional musicians, needing a sound-proof practice room in their home to preserve good relations with the neighbours. Now they are an option in eco-friendly homes, together with windows that offer acoustic insulation: your child maestro-in-the-making can blow fiercely into their recorder or strum their out of tune violin without setting your nerves on edge. 

Green living has come a long way since Tom and Barbara’s foray into generating electricity with methane gas from animal waste. Indeed, electronic wizardry (internet-linked smart controls) can supplement carefully chosen building materials and designed to create a finely tuned indoor environment. 

Purpose built properties, including ARC™ modular buildings incorporate systems for climate control, air heat exchange, air filtering and/or ventilation (to reduce pollen and condensation), in wall or under-floor heating and traditional log burners for that cosy feeling.  Today’s eco-friendly homes not only protect the wider environment, they enable you to create your own preferred environment – a much updated version of ‘The Good Life.’